Being the best can be tough – that’s where Hartpury’s Ruth Owen-Evans comes in.
Hartpury is blazing a trail in being the first UK academic institution to employ a full-time performance lifestyle manager to support its elite athletes - providing them with tools and techniques to help them balance their top-level sport with academic commitments and other life challenges.
Her role is to work with elite college and university performers across all eight of Hartpury’s sports academies - Equine, Football, Golf, Modern Pentathlon, Netball, Rowing, Rugby and Women’s Rugby.
“The challenge for me is to support athletes from all of the different sports and help them balance their academic progress and their sporting career,” said Ruth.
“It’s about helping them to create the unique environment they need to be successful. Many of our athletes are living away from home for the first time and having to balance a busy academic schedule with training and competitions. On top of that, they have to find time to study, revise for exams and plan for their future!”
“I work closely with their coaches, teachers and other support specialists as part of a team around each athlete to help address any potential concerns and work with them to resolve any potential conflicts and distractions that could be detrimental to their performance.”
As an elite mountain biker herself, Ruth, who started at Hartpury in October 2013, knows only too well the challenges of balancing a gruelling training and competition schedule.
This is the current Welsh national champion’s third season in the female elite cross country mountain bike category and at the end of 2013, she was ranked in the top 200 women in the world.
“I balance my full-time job at Hartpury with 10 to 20 hours of training per week and competing, plus sometimes travelling abroad to race at World Cups or other international events,” she said.
“Working at Hartpury, I can take advantage of the great facilities to support my off the bike training and recovery.
“Being elite in your sport comes with a great deal of hard work, commitment and often sacrifice. It is my experience of this that helps me to guide the student athletes at Hartpury. It’s really important to have an empathy with the challenges they are facing.”
As an entirely self-funded athlete, Ruth is also fully aware of the financial challenges of competing at the top level in sport, particularly up against athletes who may train and compete full-time.
“While my job is to help students to be successful in their support and prolong their career, I also help them to consider their lives after college and what they plan to do once they leave, whether that’s further study, a professional career in sport or work,” she said.
“Many of them are making major decisions about their future careers in sport and paid work and deciding whether being a full-time athlete is a viable option for them. I’m here for them through my role to help guide them through these decisions.
“I can help them with time management, budgeting and finance as well as dealing with the media, sponsorship and negotiation and conflict management skills.”
Ruth is currently seeking sponsorship to support her bid to rise up the world rankings. You can follow her @RacerRuth on Twitter or contact her by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org